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David Fincher: A Film Title Retrospective from Art of the Title on Vimeo.

DAVID FINCHER: A FILM TITLE RETROSPECTIVE

Check out this video from Art of the Title devoted to the stylings of filmmaker David Fincher. Read the accompanying article here as well for some insightful information from the director regarding his aesthetic choices for title sequences.

ZODIAC (2007)

I watched this film when it first came out but it didn’t exactly leave enough of an impression for me to recall what I liked or disliked about it. I love mysteries and the Zodiac killer is probably one of the most intriguing unsolved mysteries out there. It is only fitting then that director David Fincher would helm a film about the elusive character. No stranger to sinister suspects, having had great success with the spine-chilling Se7en (which I personally think was one of Fincher’s best), it seemed almost expected that Zodiac would be a home run. Interestingly enough, this film is less like Se7en and more like one of Fincher’s more recent murder mystery films, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. There were strokes of genius but also parts that dragged on. Overall it was an interesting watch, with its entertaining characters and scenes, but probably not something I’d care to watch multiple times.

To say that Zodiac has a slow build is quite the understatement. It definitely takes its time, which is apropos and perhaps intentional, to sort of mimic how laborious the still ongoing investigation into the killer was. If the intention was to match the film’s pace with the frustration of the detectives who were tasked to solve the case, it succeeded, but I don’t know that a style like this is entirely suitable for the screen. When you’re telling a story that spans wide swaths of time, a book is more suited to this, which The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo clearly demonstrates. A book allows you to leave things to your imagination as you trudge through the details of murders and mysteries, but a film has to translate the text to something more tangible and concrete on screen which can be limiting. I thought the way that the story was told in Zodiac did not fully take advantage of film as a medium. Although it certainly did this in some parts (such as the lake murder, which was pretty visceral), it still could have been more visual and less talky, which is what a book-to-film adaptation should be doing anyways. Instead of discussing details of the investigation between characters, for example, they could have used devices like flashbacks, or had conversations playing over the visual details instead of arguments at a diner. 

I found myself having the same issues with this film that I had with Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The editing seemed a bit off in some parts, the pace was uncomfortable and some parts dragged on, but the characters were interesting and fully realized and some scenes were very well constructed (such as the scene when Graysmith visits Vaughn). Although I love the ending and how unconventional it is, I probably would have shown some of the written epilogue using scenes instead of just showing them on a screen typed out. But, as mentioned earlier, this definitely could have been an intentional style choice by Fincher in order to match the real story’s lack of a resolution and closure. Overall, if you like murder mysteries, it’s an interesting enough film to check out. I prefer mystery movies that go out with a bang, like A Few Good Men or The Life of David Gale, both definitely driven by more emotion than Zodiac, but ones that are engaging every step of the way, not just some of the way.